The Autumns: S/T (Pseudopod Records, 2004)

by Brent

The AutumnsAfter what seemed like an eternity, California-based The Autumns have finally released their long-awaited self-titled full-length CD. After three years of label turmoil, delays, and strange internet rumours of the band’s demise, The Autumns has finally been released. In some ways, it seemed like this CD would never be released, with the sporadic reports from the band and fans seemingly pointing to the end of the band. Yet, the labour of the last three years for The Autumns has finally seen the light, as the sprawling, 13 track 50 minute The Autumns has been released.

One of the first things that a fan of The Autumns would ask about this CD is “how does is sound? Like Angel Pool, or In the Russet Gold of This Vain Hour”, referring to the band’s two previous full-lengths. Both of those CD’s, though still sounding eerily like the same band, conveyed two radically different approaches to writing and recording music. While Angel Pool featured an all-out shoegaze assault of layered guitars, reverb, drones, and big, anthemy hooks, In the Russet Gold of This Vain Hour” was more subtle, paring the layers of guitars, adding keyboards, and constraining the songwriting to more icy and linear melodies. Well, the short answer to the question as to which CD The Autumns sounds like is “Both…kind of”. The sound of this new release is at times as big and bombastic as Angel Pool, with huge guitar swells and layer upon layer of noise (such as on the wryly titled opener “The End”). Despite going years without releasing big and anthemy sounding shoegaze, The Autumns prove on this release that they can still overwhelm the listener with sound. Yet, despite this use of almost uncontrolled sound, the band also shows the intricacy and sensitivity in their arrangements that they displayed on In the Russet Gold of This Vain Hour. Songs such as the opening strains of “The End”, “Slumberdoll”, and “Cattleys”, with their fluid guitar work and distinct intertwining parts provide that link to In the Russet Gold of This Vain Hour.

Another major strength of The Autumns has always been their fabulous guitar work and vocals, and both of these are wisely prominent on The Autumns. Check out the amazing and varied guitar work on the emotional “Wonderfully Wonderful”, where the band’s lingering guitars eventually make way to perhaps the biggest wall-of-sound concoction of screaming guitars that I’ve ever heard. The song is simply a magnificent 7 minute homage to shoegaze guitars, and at the end of the song it’s all one can do to catch a breath. “Wish Stars” also similarly employs a barrage of feedback and thick haze, reminding listeners of the band’s earlier Angel Pool days. Yet, the guitars also mesmerize in other ways, such as on “Desole”, with its gentle guitar parts caressing the ears. Lead vocalist Matthew Kelly likewise gives a stunning performance on this CD, varying in range (he sings masterfully in at least 3+ octaves on this disc) and emotion. In fact, for this listener, Kelly’s vocals are always the main drawing card for an Autumns CD…and this is saying much, because I absolutely adore the sonics and guitar work that the band employs. On “Deathly Little Dreams”, Kelly begins by crooning softly, first in a deep low voice, only to effortlessly glide into that distinct falsetto. As the song swells in volume and intensity, Kelly belts out the notes convincingly. Kelly impresses on all of the songs, in fact, such as the rich 50’s influenced “Flies in the Eyes of the Queen”. The song, reminding the listener of the band’s limited edition concept EP Le Carillon, features Kelly’s lightly swaying voice buoyed by exquisite harmonies.

One aspect of The Autumns that a picky critic might notice is that the hooks of this band never seem to be the kind that immediately jump out and grab the listener. How can one sing to a band whose melodies meander and take the unexpected dips and humps that The Autumns’ songs do? Perhaps that criticism is somewhat warranted (albeit lazy), but with songs like “Every Sunday Sky”, “The End”, and “Hush Plain Girls”,  The Autumns prove once and for all that they can craft classic melodies that will truly echo in the mind listener well after the CD player is turned off. “Every Sunday Sky” is particularly notable, with its almost 80’s feel (am I the only one who detects a New Romantic feel to the song?).

Ultimately there is much for the long-time fan of The Autumns to mull over on The Autumns. At the same time, the CD is so masterfully executed that it is sure to appeal to new fans. Lord knows that the The Autumns have endured much over the past few years, and if there is another band out there who has paid their dues and who creates such consistently high quality music while not enjoying the benefits from stardom, I don’t know of them. Let’s hope that the attention to detail and hard work that the endearing The Autumns draws from the band is rewarded as much as the listener is rewarded while listening to it.

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